The Mummy
directed by Stephen Sommers
(Universal, 1999)

It was bound to happen. Dracula has seen more screen time than Star Trek, Rocky, Rambo and Friday the 13th combined. Frankenstein's Monster has plodded on screen in various forms, with such greats as Boris Karloff and Robert DeNiro portraying. The Phantom of the Opera has been enjoying success on Broadway. Heck, they even made a sequel to An American Werewolf in London.

So, along comes The Mummy, the story about the mummified man who comes back to life in search of his lost love. Of course, in our modern remake, the mummy was a high priest cursed because he killed the pharoah after sleeping with his concubine. As punishment, he gets mummified alive and cursed as undead. If he is ever released, he will bring the plagues back to Egypt and be the most evil unstoppable force on the planet. Some curse. So the people who do this decide to watch over him for all time to make sure that no one ever releases him.

Now it's 3000 years later, and here come the bumbling Europeans. As the only "big name star" (and BOY do I use that term lightly), Brenden Fraser (Airheads, George of the Jungle, Gods & Monsters) reprises the role of Frankenstein's Monster and ... oh, wait, wrong movie. Then again, could anyone tell the difference? Getting back to the review, Fraser plays the "dashing hero" (again, I use that phrase lightly) who saves everyone's tail with displays of screaming and firing guns. Oh wait, he did swing a sword around for a while. However, I firmly believe he readied himself for this role by learning how to hold two guns and appear to fire them both at the same time, a technique he uses throughout the whole film.

Rachel Weisz turns in a ho-hum performance as the "girl" of the movie, who spent the entire movie causing all the trouble (because she was smart, you see) and getting rescued. Hell, at least something stayed true to the 1920s -- the machismo. John Hannah, of Sliding Doors fame (he was the Good Guy), plays the drunk British sidekick to Fraser and brother to Weisz. He was the high point of the movie for me; I love this guy, though I kept wanting him to replay his line from Sliding Doors ("NO ONE expects the Spanish Inquisition!"). Arnold Vosloo plays the mummy, and does a fairly good job -- seeing how all he had to do was speak Egyptian and look menacing through the movie. And walk around. That's it. Of course, the large problem with his character is that he never really does anything to portray himself as the ultimate evil. The good guys end up killing more people in this movie than he does. You get the impression they tried to reconcile two characters into one and failed -- the ultimate bad guy and the object of sympathy. Wouldn't you be mad if they killed the woman you loved and then mummified you alive?

The movie itself was pretty good. For spending only $80 million (did I just write that???), they really got their money's worth in special effects. When you figure that Terminator 2 cost $100 million and its effects were mostly the T1000 morphing, the use of CGI in creating the various plagues (love the fire raining down on the city), the mummy before he is fully restored, and the scarab beetles that flow like rivers across the walkways were excellent. Then again, since there were no big name salaries to pay, more money could be spent on effects. Unfortunately, no effects wizard or CGI could make us believe that Brenden Fraser can act. We're just not there yet. And if you can look beyond the gaping holes in the story, which were done basically to get the story from point A to point B, it didn't hurt your suspension of disbelief either.

So, I'll give this movie a C grade -- the visuals were great, the interplay between the supporting cast members was good, and it was a lot of fun. I took off an entire star for casting Brenden Fraser and for not having his character die in some heroic but truly graphic and horrid way. The bad writing (for example, half the characters in this movie can read and speak ancient Egyptian, the female character making fun of the "scholars" who say a woman can't do archaeological work, then proceeds to release the mummy into the world, etc.") almost did as much as Fraser to ruin this movie. I never could figure out why the guy, who only wanted to bring his dead lover back to life, would decide, "Hell, might as well rule the world while I'm at it!"

In quick summary -- fun movie, great visuals, bad writing, mummified the wrong guy.

review by
Timothy Keene


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